Virtual Knowledge Summit sessions discuss water security, effective leadership during crises, job restructuring, and SDG-based learning

  • 18 Mar 2022
  • DUBAI, United Arab Emirates

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, March 18, 2022 – Following the successful conclusion of in-person sessions at the EXPO 2020 Dubai Headquarters, the seventh edition of the Knowledge Summit continued for the third day through virtual sessions that began on Wednesday, March 16. These online discussions are scheduled to run till March 18, 2022.

Effective Leadership During Crisis

The first virtual session, ‘Effective Leadership During Crisis: Transforming Cultures and Driving Innovation’, touched upon topics like the importance of innovation in crisis, building resilient institutions post-pandemic, and the importance of investing in human capital and encouraging staff to innovate.

The session saw valuable insights from Dan Wong, General Manager for Global Innovation at MTR, John Metselaar, Professor of Management Practice at Solvay Brussels School for Economics and Management, and Gabor George Burt, Innovation Expert.

Dan Wong spoke about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on life and business, with a special focus on Hong Kong. He added that the pandemic had forced the world to be prepared to respond to contingencies with resilience and critical thinking. Showcasing the experience of MTR in directing people towards innovative thinking and finding recovery solutions after the changes caused by the pandemic, Wong also stressed the importance of bringing about a shift in the mindset of companies, encouraging them to seek new methods to cope with difficulties.

Describing the post-pandemic period as one of change and restructuring, John Metselaar discussed the various shifts that have occurred in countries in terms of lifestyle and thinking. He further emphasized the importance of resilience in times of crisis, and of maintaining a positive outlook by viewing crisis as an obstacle that could evolve into a grant, from which companies could benefit and learn and rethink their future management methods. He stressed these tactics as a crucial aspect to help cope with the effects.

Gabor Burt emphasized the importance for companies to invest in innovation, utilize technological developments, and focus on digital transformation as part of their strategy to help achieve their goals more efficiently. In doing so, he believed that companies would also discover new and innovative techniques to respond to future crises.

Reinventing Jobs and Employment

The second virtual session, entitled ‘Reinventing Jobs and Employment’ discussed the impact of technology on the future of work, adapting to future changes, the importance of acquiring soft skills for the current generation, and going through pre-university education systems. This session was conducted by Dima Najim, Managing Director, Education for Employment, UAE.

Najim carried out a comprehensive review of the three industrial shifts that had occurred in the labor market over the years. The first industrial revolution caused a strong impact in the agricultural sector, as workers had to shift to the industrial sector to keep pace with the changes. The second industrial revolution cost many jobs due to the advent of the electric motor. She also noted that this pattern was repeated during the third industrial revolution, with the digital revolution causing the loss of many traditional jobs due to the increased reliance on workers with computer and internet skills.

She then proceeded to highlight how the world was now witnessing the Fourth Industrial Revolution approaching faster than expected. She attributed this to the COVID-19 pandemic, which accelerated the transition to telecommuting, observing that there was no time as in previous revolutions to prepare for labor market changes.

Referring to the youth, Najim highlighted the need to provide a conducive environment to empower start-ups, and to equip them with soft skills such as creative thinking, entrepreneurship, and problem-solving skills. She stated that this would allow them to establish innovative future-oriented careers.

She also added that it was crucial to inculcate basic soft skills in the youth. Pointing to universities, she observed that they were wrongly focused on graduating individuals with only academic knowledge. She found that they lacked the important soft skills to obtain employment opportunities as they were not adequately qualified to integrate themselves into the labor market. This, Najim concluded, leads to significant problems, most notably high unemployment amongst the youth in the region.




Rethinking Media for the Post Pandemic Web 3.0 age

For the third session, ‘Rethinking Media for the Post Pandemic Web3 age’ Tom Goodwin, Co-founder of All We Have Is Now, discussed misinformation, building a better Internet for all, and the role of emerging technologies in the future.

Goodwin highlighted how internet technologies and companies have evolved significantly, noting that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic could not be ignored in the bringing about rapid changes in the world. He further urged people to abandon the global conspiracy theories that arose from the pandemic and instead focus on developing new methods to cope with the challenges it presented.

Highlighting the role of modern media in influencing people’s thinking and perception of life, Goodwin said that people now have the facilities and awareness to verify published news. Stating that misinformation leads to a lack of confidence in the world, Goodwin also described the current situation as the post-truth era, demanding that modern and traditional media be more honest and practical.

He also spoke about the metaverse technology, stating that it is the future of the world. He added that humans had already begun to adapt and interact with these technologies in their daily lives, and that they must be viewed with optimism rather than worry.

SDG-Based Learning: Qualifying Young Changemakers

The fourth session saw the participation of Siva Nanda, a high school student who is passionate about advancing self-knowledge and wellbeing through education. There is also Maria Eduarda Lima, a high school student with a passion in using design to turn the world into a better place. Two other students who joined the session include Larissa Moreira, passionate about creating sustainable cities, and Jana Eissa, a high school student and the founder of the HydroRight Project.

The participants shared their respective experiences and ideas as young changemakers. Siva Nanda emphasized the importance of self-education for knowledge development, pointing to the need for people to be patient and positive in finding solutions, and to possess skills of collaboration and communication with colleagues and students from different groups. She also elaborated on her experience in developing ‘Wonder’, a system which helps self-education and knowledge acquisition.

For her part, Lima pointed to the importance of modern applications and technology to find other sources of access to different data and knowledge, as well as research on successful best practices in various countries to acquire thinking skills in problem-solving. Lima noted that no one can change the world, but they can change themselves, so they must possess strong leadership skills to address problems, and eagerly look at knowledge to contribute to the creation of a better world.

Moreira highlighted her ideas for sustainable cities aimed at meeting the UN SDGs, and that education plays an important role in achieving sustainable cities.

In the same vein, Eissa said: “Young people must look more at education and enhance their increase communication skills, use the media to share stories that matter to people. By self-education and skills development and learning more about the challenges around us, we can increase the number of innovative and creative students who contribute to building the future.”

Water Security: A Cornerstone for Economic, Social and Environmental Development

During the 5th session themed ‘Water Security: A Cornerstone for Economic, Social and Environmental Development’, Sunil Lalvani, founder and CEO of the Project Maji, and Galen Walsh, Co-founder of Jibu, talked about issues on water management and ways to improve water security through technology.

Sunil Lalvani showcased Project Maji, an initiative founded in Dubai which helps deliver potable water to communities throughout Africa. The company uses modern technologies such as solar panels to produce electricity that power up water generation from the ground and has helped deliver quality freshwater and solve many issues for the communities served by the project, according to Lalvani.

He further explained that there is a need for governments in Africa to develop infrastructure for a safe drinking water considering the enormous water challenges in the region. He added that a change in the investment mindset of the private sector to invest their funds in new infrastructure models can provide an important support while helping achieve economic growth and creating positive impact in people’s lives.

Walsh, on the other hand, pointed out that Africa lacks adequate water supply infrastructure and that humanitarian initiatives alone cannot address all the water problems owing to Africa's growing population, noting that those countries need to set up small private sector-led companies in the infrastructure sector to play the key role that the government cannot do.

Walsh referred to the experience of Africa's leading company Jibu which delivers drinking water and other basic products to hundreds of thousands of people throughout eastern and southern Africa. Using advanced technology can help change people's culture and consumption behavior and stop water wastage, which is essential to achieving water security, he commented, adding: “Free water is a source of irrational use; therefore, everyone should pay for water use.”

The Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation aims to promote and empower knowledge in communities across the region and the world. It works to build faster and more accurate solutions to health, environmental, economic, and social challenges and to provide a better future and a clear path to sustainable development. The virtual sessions of the Summit ends on Friday, March 18.